Easy Rider

Easy Rider

Byrds, “Ballad of Easy Rider” (Roger McGuinn)
The river flows, it flows to the sea
Wherever that river goes that’s where I want to be
Flow river flow, let your waters wash down
Take me from this road to some other town
All he wanted was to be free
And that’s the way it turned out to be
Flow river flow, let your waters wash down
Take me from this road to some other town
Flow river flow, past the shady trees
Go river go, go to the sea
Flow to the sea

Premiered on July 14, 1969

Easy Rider

Road stories

We humans love stories and we particularly love stories about journeys. Ever since Homer sat down and recited the tale of Odysseus and his attempt to return home to Penelope, a multitude of tales have followed creating variations on that theme.

The list of those variations is far longer than any little blog like this one could delineate, but Mr Chaucer's 1478  Canterbury Tales comes to mind as does Jack Kerouac's 1957 On the Road. And of course Mr Tolkien's tale of Mr B Baggins of Bag End.  

There are hundreds of others.

Road films

As soon as Americans started to build roads for motorized vehicles, a plethora of films about people and their travels ensued. The movie of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath novel couldn't have happened without cars and roads. At least not in the same way.

Visit the Federal Highway Commission's site for its extensive list of road-related films.

Easy Rider

By the summer of 1969 the cultural revolution was in high gear. Rock festivals dotted the summer calendar. War protests continued.  The anti-hero reigned. In 1967, The Graduate showed us the suburban anti-hero. Easy Rider introduced  us to two western hippie anti-heroes. 

Captain America & Wyatt

Peter Fonda played Captain America", and Dennis Hopper played Billy. Both dress in a counter-cultural style: Fonda in a leather jacket with an American Flag stenciled on it;  Hopper in leather pants and jacket in imitation of some Native American tribal dress.

They leave California with a gas tank filled with drug money, intending to head east to New Orleans and thence to Florida. Such a trip is the opposite direction of what traditional American history books told of Manifest Destiny and going west to explore, settle, displace, and claim the American dream.

Easy Riders Itinerary

Along the way they visit a commune, experience free love, get arrested, introduce a new friend ("George Hanson" played by Jack Nicholson) to marijuana, get beaten by locals, use LSD, and witness death.

Impact

The story reinforced the counterculture's view of the Establishment's worthlessness and corruption, and that most Americans saw those who tried to live freely as a threat to their way of life.

The soundtrack's artists reinforced that view. Included were The Band, The Byrds, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Steppenwolf. 
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